PONGAL Festival of Tamil Community of South India

Pongal is a harvest festival particularly in the Tamil community of South India. Apart from celebrating by the Community in India, by the diaspora worldwide.  It has celebrated at the beginning of the month according to the Tamil Solar Calendar which mostly falls on the fourteenth of January. The festival has dedicated to the sun god, Surya. The festival has predominantly divided into three days, namely, Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kanum.

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History and Etymology

The festival has named after the ceremonial ‘Pongal’ which loosely translates to ‘to boil or overflow’ and also refers to the traditional dish Pongal which has prepared during the festival.

The history of the festival, supposedly, can be traced back to the Chola period. Some of the ancient inscriptions from this period include detailed recipes for the preparation of the Pongal dish.

It has said that the preparation of the dish is a celebration of the harvest and the process of cooking transforms this gift of agriculture into nourishment for the gods and the community. It is also a means of celebrating the end of the winter solstice.

Pongal Dish

The festival’s most significant practice is the preparation of the traditional Pongal dish. This dish utilizes freshly harvested rice and has prepared by boiling it in milk and jaggery. Other ingredients like cardamoms, raisins, cashews, coconuts, and ghee are also added. This constitutes the sweet variant of the dish. Sometimes a salty and savory variant of the dish has also prepared.

The cooking is done in a clay pot that is often decorated with leaves or flowers and sometimes tied with a piece of turmeric. It is a ritual dish that has served along with many other courses that have prepared from seasonable ingredients.

Days of the festival

Bhogi Pongal

The festival begins on this day and has marked by people discarding old belongings to welcome new possessions. People assemble and light a bonfire to burn heaps of the discards. Houses are also cleaned and decorated to get into the festive mood.

Surya Pongal

This is the second day of the festival and often has considered the main festive day. It marks the first day of the new month (according to the Tamil calendar) and has celebrated with friends and family. The traditional dish, Pongal, has prepared in an earthen pot on this day. People decorate their homes with banana and mango leaves and make kolams (festive or geometric patterns drawn using colored rice and flour)

Mattu Pongal

Mattu refers to cow, bullock, or cattle. They have regarded as a source of wealth for the Hindu Tamils and have decorated with flower garlands or painted horns. The cattle are fed a mixture of Pongal, jaggery, honey among other things on this day.

In an urban context, this day marks the ritualistic visit to temples and offering of prayers. Temples and communities often hold processions that have the icons from the sanctum of the temples in wooden chariots.

Kanum Pongal

The fourth day of the festival marks the end of the festivities and many families hold reunions on this day. Relatives, friends, and neighbors visit each other while the youngsters visit the elderly to seek their blessings.

Also read, Onam

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